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Boys with Toys: Disruptive Technology and the Wisdom of the Four-Story Building by Johnson Favaro

About 150 years ago technologies emerged that dramatically changed the way we live.  Electricity, steel and the internal combustion engine made possible the very tall building (or skyscraper) and the automobile. This in turn made possible extremes in how we live: super dense places with lots of tall buildings such as New York and super spread out places like the suburbs and edge cities of California.

Like any disruptive technology we were almost obligated to try them out, see them through, see what works, just as we are equally obligated to confront what doesn’t. (Portable digital technology is after only a decade of ubiquity and seemingly endless possibility now gripped by self-doubt).  Has the time not now arrived for us to evaluate what has and has not worked about the way we engage in making very tall and spread out places?

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Master Bathrooms and Ballistic Missiles: What are we doing? by Johnson Favaro

The middle school (or “junior high school”) I attended in northern California was a poured-in-place concrete 1920’s era Spanish mission style number with loggias and courtyards. It was grand and for us middle class suburban kids even a little bit exotic. We all felt special going there.  The monumental Fredrick Law Olmsted designed campus where I went to college made me feel valued, like I was somewhere important. And the modest yet somehow grand Georgian architecture where I went to graduate school made me feel as if I were part of something bigger—the arc of history and the culture of this nation. 

Vallejo Junior High School was torn down in the 1970s and replaced with a series of single story concrete block bungalows.  The 1960s era library where most of us studied on that Olmsted designed campus was called UGLY (“UnderGraduate LibrarY”). Notoriously disliked by about everyone who ever encountered it, the university recently tore it down. All our library projects over the last decade replaced mid-century bunkers (mostly with no windows) that had proliferated across Southern California in the 60s, 70s and 80s.  What happened?

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